America’s pandemic president continues his reign of ineptitude and cruelty. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the issuing of new green cards for people immigrating to the United States. After initially implying on Twitter that the order would broadly ban all immigration, he clarified that the order would not stop temporary work visas from being granted to foreign laborers.
At the same time, Trump’s administration has given Americans a series of mixed messages about when the country should reopen. At least some in the White House have called out public health as a reason for the new immigration policy. National security adviser Robert O’Brien, for example, told Fox News that “We’re trying to do everything, the president’s trying to do everything he can to put the health of the American people first during this crisis,” adding that the executive order was “one step.”
In reality, this latest executive order should be tossed on the garbage heap with all of Trump’s other travel bans. Either the virus is not serious enough to continue mass nationwide social distancing or it is so serious that there is an immediate need to stop people from entering the country. It cannot be both. Despite the specter of the coronavirus, this is just another attempt to stop black, brown and Muslim immigrants from entering the country — all while feeding his xenophobic base.
Trump’s softening of the ban’s stance on temporary workers is further proof that the president does not actually believe his own statements about immigration and jobs. It is more evidence that he views immigrants as disposable, cheap labor — but not as people who could or should become part of our nation. “This action is not only an attempt to divert attention away from Trump’s failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, but an authoritarian-like move to take advantage of a crisis and advance his anti-immigrant agenda,” noted Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The distinction lies in the path of opportunity for temporary workers and green card holders. A person with a green card can sponsor family members for their own green cards, work in a field and occupation of their choosing, leave and re-enter the United States much more easily, contribute to political campaigns, and, of course, apply for citizenship after five years. In other words, a green card provides a real opportunity to become a productive part of this country.
Temporary work visas, on the other hand, only allow people to come into the country to work in a specific occupation, for a fixed amount of time, without the ability to exit and re-enter the country or take part in civic life.